Saturday, 9 January 2010

Chocolate, Date and Walnut Squares

This delicious traybake is based on chopped dates softened in fruit juice/water - so it turns out similar in texture to a sticky toffee pudding. It's moist, chewy and richly chocolatey, but not too sweet - it makes a (slightly) healthier alternative to rich, but sugar laden, brownies. The dates are more noticeable for making the texture chewy than for their flavour, as is the case with sticky toffee pudding, but they seem to make the chocolate more intense. The recipe comes originally from 'Wicked Chocolate' by Jane Suthering.


255g chopped dates
250mls water or 50:50 orange juice:water (I used OJ from a carton, but couldn't taste it in the cake - all water would be easier to use!)
170g plain chocolate, chopped (I used 74% cocoa solids)
115g softened butter
115g light Muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
170g SR flour, sifted
115g walnuts, roughly chopped


Preheat the oven to 190C and line a 30 x 20cm (12 x 8") rectangular baking tin with baking parchment. The tin needs to be at least 4cm (nearly 2") deep.

Put the chopped dates into a small saucepan and add the 250mls liquid. Bring just to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes to soften the dates. Not all the liquid will be absorbed. Remove from the heat and add the chopped chocolate; stir briskly until the chocolate has melted.

Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and increased in volume, then beat in the eggs one at a time. (I usually beat in the eggs at a slower mixer speed - I find it reduces the chances of curdling).

Next fold in the flour, followed by the date and chocolate mix (it will still be quite warm!), and the walnuts. Make sure all the ingredients are thoroughly blended, then spread into the baking tin.

Bake for about 20 minutes until firm and well risen - the cocktail stick test isn't the most helpful guide as the cake is so moist. Cool in the tin, then cut into serving sized pieces. I made 18 pieces, but the original recipe suggested cutting into 24 pieces - use your judgement!

The original recipe suggests frosting with a mix of 115g melted plain chocolate cooled and mixed with 115g Greek natural yogurt, and topping each squre with a half walnut, but I didn't think a frosting was necessary. A dusting of icing sugar would improve the appearance, if you worry about that sort of thing!


Lucie said...

Wow, these look so tempting. I have not seen anything like this before. I will give these a whirl. Thanks for sharing. Lucie X

Foodycat said...

The certainly look like brownies! Loads of people gave me chocolate for Christmas - I think some of it may end up in these.

C said...

They sound lovely. I'm trying to think what I could sub for the walnuts here - slightly reluctant to add more dried fruit (which would normally be my choice!) due to the dates. Perhaps I should just leave them out!

Suelle said...

C - I don't think it would affect the recipe to leave out the nuts.

Zeb said...

I've just cut these! They are quite as lovely as you say. The dates were so hard they were blunting my knife, so I put them in the oj/water mix first and simmered them gently, then took them out and chopped them when they had softened and carried on from there. They have a very fruity taste and are not at all sugary; delicious and sort of grown up. I used the Co-op's 85 per cent fair trade chocolate. That's two great recipes from your blog I've tried so far. Thanks Sue!

Suelle said...

You're making me blush, Zeb - but I'm pleased you like the recipe! Dates can be very hard - I tried choping some in a mini-processor for a Christmas recipe, and thought the blades were going to shatter. I had to do the same as you in the end - soften them in hot water before chopping.

MaryMoh said...

Looks very moist and it!

Zeb said...

And these bars are still eating well nearly a week later, I like them warmed up a bit in the oven, and being much enjoyed by everyone who tries them....I've got a 'free' mini bundt tin from Lakeland, I ordered a whole lot of other stuff, it takes a 2 egg mix, whatever that means? Do you have any suggestions? I was thinking of lemon cake, but not sure if the sticky one would work in a tin like that, it's got lots of little crevices? I haven't made the lemon and seed cake yet...

Suelle said...

Hi, Zeb. The cake didn't last a week here, but it's good to know that it will, if necessary.

A '2 egg mix' refers to the classic proportions of a Victoria Sandwich or all-in-one sponge cake. In this case, 110g each SR flour, sugar, softened butter and 2 eggs. I'm still a learner when it comes to bundt cakes, but I think you need a cake with a fairly dense close texture for it to come out of the tin cleanly. My chocolate and orange marble cake recipe worked well in a bundt tin and that's similar proportions to a Victoria sandwich, but with almonds added for moistness.

If you wanted a lemon cake, you could always drizzle over the lemon syrup after the cake was out of the tin, but still warm - bundt cakes aren't left to cool in the tin. Dan Lepard has a good lemon drizzle loaf using almonds, which might fit OK - one of his Guardian recipes. If it looked like too much mixture, only fill the tin to 2/3 capacity and bake any extra in mufin cases.

Not sure if links work here:

Zeb said...

Thanks Suelle, I'll give it a go and let you know how I get on with it. :)

Ben Wallace said...

I made these!! Beautiful. I personally haven't tried them but do a great deal of cooking and know a good'n when it comes out of the oven! Wonderfully moist, cuts well, keeps well, travels well. I have frozen some and left some for bite sized nibbles. There have had two testers, one said they were very chewy and the other said very cocoa-y but that is due to the 74% chocolate and what I was going for. I shouldn't really have tried them on her as she hates dark chocolate! But she said despite that fact for someone that loves the taste of dark chocolate would love the slice. I will try it on the dark choc lovers later today. Thank you for sharing.

Suelle said...

I'm glad they were a success for you, Ben.